The Sala IV will get a chance to decide how much of a public employee’s personal information should be public.
Employees of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said they have presented such a case to the constitutional court and that the court has agreed to consider the issue.
Employees of the Compañía Nacional de Fuerza y Luz also filed a similar case. In all, there are four separate cases.
The cases are in response to revelations by La Nación and Otto Guevara Guth of Movimiento Libertario that showed public employees were making much more money than their private counterparts. The disclosures are newsworthy because of the country’s critical financial state.
The appeals are based on Constitutional provisions guaranteeing privacy of citizen information except at the order of a judge. Employees were unhappy that the salary data seems to have come from the monthly filings to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social
Many public officials and the editorial staff of La Nación, the Spanish-language newspaper, have said that this privacy rule does not apply to activities that involve public funds.
Manuel González Sanz, the foreign minister, went to far as to post his most recent salary information on the ministry Web page. He makes 2.4 million colons a month, about $4,500. But deductions, including anticipated income tax, take 441,621.28, about $837.
He said that citizens have the right to know the details of money that is paid from public sources.
Names and other identifying information are touchy subject in Cost Rica. Most police reports do not give the full name of suspects, and official photos of arrests usually have the face of any suspects and even those of police officers blurred or overprinted.
The courts, citing a new law on privacy, have been removing relevant names from civil decisions that are made public. Names of individuals or corporations also have been deleted from a data base that contains information on criminal and civil cases.
Access to such information is vital for anyone doing due diligence before becoming involved in business with firms or persons in Costa Rica, noted one private investigator.
Court case files also are closed except to the individuals and the lawyers involved.
On the other hand, information at the Registro Nacional is mostly open.
For years the names of juvenile offenders were kept secret, although they sometimes show up in Fuerza Pública reports.
Recently some Costa Rican agencies are keeping the names of juveniles secret even if they are crime or accident victims and are dead. Eventually the names will show up in the Registro Civil, which keeps an authoritative list of births, marriages and deaths.
The trend toward secrecy is not restricted to Costa Ricans.
Due to identity theft plenty of personal information that used to be public is now restricted, including the U.S. Social Security Death Index.